Students in this semester’s Intro to Sports Administration course give their thoughts on the state of youth sports in America.
By: Abbey Robinson
Spreading the focus of youth sports from competition and winning towards fun, learning, and health may seem like just a values judgement. However given the statistics from John O’Sullivan (TEDx Talks, 2014), for example that 70% of young athletes drop out of sports before they’re 13, such changes could really be necessary to the survival of youth sports. One compelling reason to systematically change our culture in an effort to reduce early attrition is the study cited where kids chose “fun” as the main reason they played sports, and at least nine other motives were ranked before “winning” (2014). If a subjective survey isn’t enough evidence, we’ve also read and heard about medical research proving sports cause a majority of secondary schoolers’ injuries (Anderson, 2013) and that overuse injuries are on the rise among young athletes, especially those who specialize early (Is It Wise To Specialize?, SmartTeams Talk, and Matz, 2014). The industry can’t be sustained if athletes are mentally unwilling or physically unable to keep participating.
To make sports habitual and enjoyable for children, it will be key to adjust the environment adults create. We could more effectively market the research supporting unstructured play and multi-sport participation to parents and coaches. For younger grades, more districts should take a tip from the recent American Academy of Pediatrics statement which recommended increasing the frequency of recess breaks based on research showing children learn better after physical activity and unstructured play (Connelly, 2016). For older grades, schools and governing bodies could communicate publicly that their athletes should be encouraged to participate in multiple sports. Since they have powerful influence as mentors despite oftentimes lacking training (Anderson, 2013), coaches should be trained to be willing to work together for athletes’ well-being throughout the year rather than competing for the off-season commitment of “their” players. Paradigm shifts like these could make our approaches and goals in youth sports more balanced.
Anderson, E. (2013). i9 and the Transformation of Youth Sport. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 37(1), 97 –111.
Connelly, C. (2016, January 4). Turns out monkey bars and kickball might be good for the brain. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/01/03/460254858/turns-out-monkey-bars-and-kickball-are-good-for-the-brain
Is it Wise to Specialize? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://changingthegameproject.com/is-it-wise-to-specialize/
Matz, E. (2014, February 24). The kids are alright. Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/10496416/are-youth-sports-ruining-kids-childhoods-espn-magazine.
SmartTeams Talk. (n.d.). Keeping up with the Joneses: How much is too much in youth sports?. Retrieved from http://www.momsteam.com/successful-parenting/basics/smartteams%E2%84%A2-talk-dr-neeru-jayanthis-message-youth-sports-parents-let-kid.
TEDx Talks. (2014, June 20). Changing the game in youth sports: John O’Sullivan at TEDxBend. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXw0XGOVQvw
By: Nicole Blaszczyk
In 2014, Forbes reported the sporting industry in North America was valued at over $60 billion and is expected to reach a value of over $73 billion by 2016 (Heitner, 2014). For an industry that is trending up, it should be alarming that youth sports is trending down. Every year nearly 40 million children play youth sports in the United States, “yet 70% of those kids drop out and quit by the time they are thirteen years old” (O’Sullivan, 2014).
While there are many contributing factors for the decline in youth sport participation, I have noticed one prevailing flaw in the current state of youth sports to be a national regulating body. The National Federation of State High School Associations governs high school sport, the National Collegiate Athletic Association regulates college sport, while organizations like the National Football League and Major League Baseball manage their respective professional and minor-leagues. However, there is no comprehensive organization that provides national assistance for youth sport.
Youth sports are in need of a non-profit national organization designed to create protocol, enforce rules, develop best practices and provide resources for all forms of youth sports, including privatized and public organized sport. This national organization would support and monitor for-profit businesses by providing regulated resources for coaches, parents and even athletes; similar to i9 Sport which has over 120 “alternative child and youth sport” franchises across the country (Anderson, 2013). Most importantly, it will provide consistency, administer accountability, uphold national standards and provide educational resources for related participants regarding topics most relevant in youth sports today. Finally, this organization would improve access to sport by pointing resources toward areas of need and aiding in the development of less popular Olympic sports, individual sports and even developing sports.
Anderson, E. (2012). I9 and the Transformation of Youth Sport. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 37(1), 97-111.
Heitner, D. ( 2014, October, 19) Sports Industry To Reach 73.5 Billion By 2019. Retrieved February 8, 2016 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2015/10/19/sports-industry-to-reach-73-5-billion-by-2019/#6ef86b5c1585
O’Sullivan, John. (2014). Changing the Game in Youth Sports. Retrieved from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Changing-the-Game-in-Youth-Spor;search%3Atag%3A%22tedxbend%22